Review of the Week

Walker, Sally M.  Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown. Sean Qualls, Illus. Non-fic. HarperCollins, 2012. [34]p. $17.99, 978-0-06-058310-1.     OUTSTANDING   GRADES 1-3

Henry was born into slavery and always feared his family would be separated. In moving rhythmic prose, Walker describes how music brought Henry comfort and hope (“As Henry worked ‘neath Virginia’s hot sun, he sang his workday song. It’s lift, tote, toss-the-sack words sent strength into his arms”). When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold, and Henry executed a risky escape to “freedom-land” by mailing himself in a box to Pennsylvania. Somber-paletted paintings in a folk art style capture the dire situation. Back matter includes an author’s note and an actual letter from the man who received Henry at the end of his harrowing journey, lending credence to this dark, extraordinary story of a man’s will to be free. Similar to a story on the subject illustrated by Kadir Nelson in 2007 (Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levine, Scholastic), this version is very different stylistically, and the text is truly poetic.

Cassy Lee, Cragmont Elementary School, Berkeley

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